The school bells at twelve Ottawa area elementary schools were sounding between three and ten minutes prior to the published start times of the schools. The Union filed a grievance alleging a violation of the instructional minutes maximum enshrined in the collective agreement. In the Union’s view, the early bell ringing required students to enter their school early, which had the effect of improperly prolonging teachers’ instructional time.

The Board asserted that students were being provided extra time to visit their lockers and were not required to enter the schools with the early sounding of the bells.

When the arbitrator sided with the Union and ordered compensation to affected teachers, the Board filed an application of Judicial Review with the Divisional Court.

The Divisional Court quashed the arbitrator’s decision and remitted the matter for reconsideration before a different arbitrator. In doing so, the Court reasoned that the arbitrator failed to address and answer the central issue before her: namely, whether the early ringing of the bells permitted students to enter the schools or required them to do so. Rather, the Court reasoned, the arbitrator wrongly focussed on whether the activities which some teachers engaged in (after the early ringing of the bells and before the published start times) amounted to “instructional” time.

The Court further concluded that the Union could only establish that instructional times were exceeded by proving that students were required to enter the schools with the early sounding of the bells. On the face of the record, the Court ruled, this had not be proven.

The Court was particularly critical of the arbirator’s remedial order and noted that there was no basis for ordering compensation as the affected teachers did not have to work any longer than their colleagues at other schools and did not take on any extra duties. In fact, the Court noted, some teachers simply continued to drink coffee in the staff room or locked themselves in their classroom while students lined up in the hall.